Temple Beth Shalom celebrates 40 years in Palm Coast

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Performers from Temple Beth Shalom’s musical ensemble dressed up in 1940s costumes and sung, shimmied and sashayed to World War II-era tunes Sunday, at the synagogue’s 40th anniversary celebration at the Pine Lakes Golf Course clubhouse.

The performance, a tribute to the Andrews Sisters — the harmony singing group that sold millions of records and performed for Allied troops in World War II — included classic songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Lullaby of Broadway.”

Many of the community’s members heard those songs on the radio when they were first released, Temple Beth Shalom secretary Claire Soria said.

“This is a time that we remember so well,” she said. “A lot of our members were in the Second World War, and a lot of our boys were overseas.”

And, she said, it seemed to make sense to use songs from the 40s to commemorate the synagogue’s 40th anniversary.

But right now, said Temple Beth Shalom president Robert Arkin, the community is looking forward.

“We want to reach out to the Jewish community, and we want to reach out to the community in general,” he said.

Arkin became president of the synagogue this year and has been involved with it for 17 years, he said. He chose his Palm Coast home in part because it was within walking distance of the synagogue on Wellington Drive.

For the local Jewish community, he said, having a place to pray, receive spiritual guidance and observe the Sabbath is important. “Whether it’s a church or a temple, people want to come and pray, and they want a spiritual leader to take them on that journey,” he said.

To build connections, he said, the synagogue has been participating in the Jewish Federation’s food drive and is planning new classes.

The one designing those new classes is Cantor Zev Sonnenstein, who became the synagogue’s spiritual leader this fall and expects to be ordained as a rabbi early next year.

He’s preparing an introductory class on Judaism and an adult Hebrew class, and he has already started a youth group.

“I want to get the kids back involved. I want the kids to see that there’s life after bar mitzvah,” he said.

Sonnenstein added that the kids he has learning Hebrew are “enthralled.” “They’re excited to learn Hebrew,” he said. “I want the language we use reading Torah to be our lifeline.”

The temple’s 40th anniversary, Sonnenstein said, holds special importance because of the significance of the number 40 in the Torah.

“In Torah, after 40 years in the desert, the new generation comes forth, and we advance,” he said. “It’s a perfect time for us to reevaluate. I see a vibrant community being revitalized.”

The temple has had 20% growth in membership the past few months, Sonnenstein said, and he hopes it will continue expanding.

Temple Beth Shalom is an inclusive community, and welcomes interfaith couples and people who aren’t Jewish but would like to learn more about the religion.

“We’re jumping in with both feet,” Sonnenstein said. “I want to integrate the best of the past and the present to make a superb future.”


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